When the Weather Gets Cold, Don’t Forget to Warm Up!

The man in sportswear is jogging through the winter country roadColder weather means some changes to how we exercise. Of course, it’s harder to motivate yourself to get outside for a run or bike ride when the temperature drops, and the shorter days compress our schedules, but there are changes in your body that affect your ability to exercise too. For many people with arthritis or other joint problems, cold weather brings more complaints of pain. To stay warm, our bodies narrow blood vessels to reduce blood flow to the skin, and more superficial muscles. That means that there is an increased risk of muscle strains in the cold. There is also an increased strain on the heart because of the narrowed blood vessels. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be active outdoors in the cold, it just means you may have to make a few changes to your routine. Here are a few to consider:

Warm up right

A good warm up is always important, but because of the tendency for joints to be stiffer, and blood flow to muscles to be reduced in the cold, it’s even more important that you do it right this time of year. To start, do something to get your heart rate up a bit, maybe a brisk walk or light jog. Follow that up with a dynamic warm up rather than static stretches. This could include walking or jogging while pulling your knees up high to your chest. Maybe some high kicks in front of you with straight knees to get your hamstrings loosened. A walking lunge with an upper body twist can get your whole body moving. Cater your warm up to what you have planned in your workout. If you’re not sure how it should look, ask your physical therapist!

Dress right

Dressing in layers allows you to adjust your insulation to your activity level. After you warm up, you might want to take off a layer to avoid getting too hot during your main activity. You’ll have it there later to put back on when your activity level drops and you start getting too cold.

 

Don’t forget about the sun either – just because it’s cold doesn’t mean the UV rays are gone. Sunscreen and sunglasses aren’t just for the summer. A lip balm with SPF can protect you not only from the sun but from the wind too.

Stay hydrated

Drink water before, during, and after your workout. The temperature may be down, but you’ll still sweat and you’ll still lose water vapor in your breath. The drier air in winter lets your sweat evaporate more quickly, so it’s easy to underestimate how much fluid you’ve lost.

Cool down

When you’re done, don’t rush to get inside and crawl under a blanket. Cool down properly. Keep moving with a walk or another form of active recovery to let your heart rate come down. After exercise is the right place for static stretching. You can also head inside for some foam rolling or self-massage.

The days being shorter and the temperatures being lower don’t mean you’re stuck inside for all of your exercise. If you follow these tips, you can safely keep moving outside. If you’d like a customized warm up or cool down, or have questions about your exercise routine, your physical therapist is a great person to ask!

Developing Physical Awareness

How are you holding up during these times? Are you doing well? Or are you stressed and feeling like you’re constantly performing a juggling act? No matter how you’re doing during these times, now is as good a time as any to be physically aware of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Since our bodies respond differently during times of stress versus relaxation, developing physical awareness will help you develop better habits to prevent future injury.

There are two systems at work within our autonomic nervous system, and it’s important to be aware of them: the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic system is often described as the “resting and digesting” system while the sympathetic nervous system is often described as the “fight or flight” system. Each of these systems are meant to be in balance, but we as humans often tip the scale towards one system over the other. During times like these, it’s often our sympathetic system that is heavily weighted, mostly because we’re on edge and constantly responding to stimuli without being fully aware of our responses; we’re being reactionary rather than thoughtful. As clinicians at Hartz Physical Therapy, it’s one of our goals to help you reduce sympathetic nervous system activation and restore a more normal balance within your autonomic nervous system. So, how do we achieve this balance? One way is to develop physical awareness.

When we are physically aware of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, we are able to focus on what’s important and allow our bodies to move through intentional movement patterns (such as walking, lifting and carrying) without issue. When we lack physical awareness, our bodies compensate. And because our bodies love to compensate, we often develop muscle imbalances. And if we let our bodies compensate for too long, these imbalances can lead to injury; however, we can alter the trajectory of these bodily compensations by becoming more physically aware of what our bodies are doing and how they’re doing it. Developing this physical awareness will reduce the tendency to compensate and therefore help prevent injury.

What are some practical steps to develop physical awareness? Firstly, breathe. Focus on slow, deep breaths. Some people find it helpful to close the eyes so that distractions can be eliminated. Try breathing when laying down or sitting upright. Concentrate on your inhales and exhales and allow your body to relax with each breath. Check out our blog post titled “The Importance of Breathing” for more tips. Secondly, do one thing at a time and focus on what you’re doing at that moment. Stop texting while driving. It sounds straightforward, but this principle can be applied to many areas in life. Doing too many things at once disallows your brain from fully being present in the moment and can potentially cause harm. Finally, exercise with slow and focused movement. Learn to isolate muscles in order to properly develop movement control, which is vital to injury prevention. Focused breathing while exercising can help facilitate this isolation.

Physical awareness is very important. We’d love to help you develop better awareness, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a consultation!

CLICK HERE to view a video about this very topic.

Can Standing a Certain Way Cause a Muscle Imbalance?

Have you ever thought about how much time you spend on one leg throughout the day? Is your weight equally distributed between each leg, or is your weight shifted to one side more than the other? Whether walking, running or standing, spending an equal amount of time on each leg is important to maintaining proper muscle balance. 

Whether you realize it or not, we spend a great amount of time on a single leg during a typical day. Every time you take a step, your body needs to shift weight onto that leg for a brief moment in time. It is during this time that single leg stability and strength needs to be adequate, otherwise a stumble or fall might occur. Practicing a single leg stance can therefore be an effective exercise to develop a proper weight shift and better stability. The beautiful thing about this exercise is that it can be performed anywhere! Next time you brush your teeth, try standing on your right leg for 15 seconds, then on your left. Maybe try balancing on a single leg while you clean the dishes or while you throw a ball for your dog. The opportunities are endless! There are many progressions of the single leg balance and we’d love to show you some in the clinic.

Balancing on both legs is very important because if your weight shift favors one side of your body, a muscle imbalance may occur. Muscle imbalance is a common issue we see in the clinic. While not always the case, an imbalance may be the result of spending more time bearing weight on one side of your body versus the other. This week, pay attention to how you stand. Pay attention to how you walk. And pay attention to how you negotiate steps. Do you favor one leg versus the other? Do you bear more weight through one side of your body? If you find yourself shifting your weight more to one side of your body, shift your weight to the other side. It may feel odd, but keeping an equal weight shift through both legs may help improve performance and decrease symptoms that you may be experiencing in the hips or low back.

As with most things in life, balance is essential. The more awareness you have of your weight shift, the better your muscle balance will be. Equal weight shifting may just keep the physical therapist away!

CLICK HERE for a brief video explaining more about this concept

Top Ten Tips to Avoid Injury while Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning is a great way to recharge and get your house back in order, however organizing closets and cleaning out the basement can create achy, stiff joints, and tight muscles. Here are 10 tips to help you avoid injury while cleaning this spring:

  1. PACE YOURSELF: It can be a long, and physically demanding task to clean out the house, so space it out and do not try to do it all in one day. A common reason that patients come in to see us at HARTZ is because they over-do it with housework. For example going up and down the stairs all day, cleaning for 6+ hours straight, reaching overhead wiping shelves for an extended period, etc.
  2. HAVE A GAME PLAN: For example, if you are going to clean out the basement, avoid unnecessary trips up and down the steps by being prepared. Have the trash bags and cleaning supplies handy, make piles of what to keep and to donate, and then start making the trek back upstairs. Work smarter not harder, your body will thank you!
  3. PROPER FOOTWEAR: While cleaning you will want to avoid wearing sandals, flip flops or slippers because of the poor traction each has. You want to wear athletic shoes or shoes that have a rubbery sole to avoid slips and falls!
  4. PROPER BODY MECHANICS: If you are planning to move heavy objects, be sure to use proper lifting mechanics: bend at your knees, feet shoulder width apart, item close to body and keep a flat strong back (squatting motion). Avoid repetitive movements, use cushions to kneel on, keep your shoulders relaxed when working overhead and avoid tensing your shoulders up to your ears.
  5. START SLOW AND WARM-UP: This may sound a little silly to warm-up before cleaning, but you will be bending and testing your muscles trying to reach every nook and cranny in your home. Doing some light stretching will help you avoid any muscle strains that may come with cleaning.
  6. UTILIZE PROPER TOOLS: Instead of getting on your hands and knees to clean your kitchen floor, use a mop with a long handle. Vacuum cleaners can be heavy and can cause people to have back pain from pushing and pulling them. If you have a history of back pain, try using a cordless vacuum cleaner as they are usually much lighter and easier to move around. When cleaning at a high height, whether it be a ceiling fan, or a high window, be sure to use a proper step ladder to reach those spots.
  7. TAKE BREAKS AND STAY HYDRATED: Cleaning is not a race! If you are someone who cleans every day, you can overuse certain muscles which in turn can cause injury to that muscle. To avoid these types of injuries, it is important to take short frequent breaks. While taking these breaks be sure to drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated while cleaning. Keeping your muscles well hydrated is very important to avoiding injuries.
  8. BREAK UP A BIG JOB INTO SMALLER ONES: If you are attempting a big cleaning job, especially alone, it is important to tackle that job with a plan. Break the one big job down into more manageable smaller jobs and complete those one at a time.
  9. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY: If you are having pain while cleaning, then stop and take a break. I know we are inclined to want to finish the job, but fighting through the pain could turn a small problem into a larger one. Cleaning can be a strenuous activity on your body and your body will tell you exactly how it feels. If it is telling you to stop, listen!
  10. PAMPER YOURSELF: After you are done cleaning for the day, take time to assess how you are feeling and pamper those muscles that are a bit sore: utilize a heating pad or ice pack to a trouble area and perform some gentle stretches. Here are recommendations to stretch three areas that commonly take a beating from cleaning:
    1. LOW BACK: may be hurting especially with heavy lifting or even just sitting on the floor for extended periods of time. Lay on your bed and perform some easy trunk rotations, pull your knee in towards your chest, and then trial some hamstring stretches.
    2. NECK/SHOULDERS: may be sore especially if you are hunched over sorting through old files or paperwork. Gentle upper trap and pec stretches will help to relieve neck tension and improve a rounded shoulder posture.
    3. FOREARMS/WRISTS: always work hard when cleaning. To help, perform wrist stretches by holding arm straight out and pulling fingers up (flexor stretch) and then down (extensor stretch). Hold 30 seconds each.
      LINK TO PHOTO ILLUSTRATION OF
      THESE RECOMMENDED STRETCHES

By following these ten simple tips you will help prevent any injuries that may come with spring cleaning. If you ever find yourself in pain that just won’t go away, consider having a physical therapist look at the problem area and give you some tips for reducing pain!  Call us at HARTZ PT anytime!  Happy Cleaning!

~ Alicia Leeking, PTA and Melissa Potts, PTA Student

Who, Me? Three Factors that Increase Your Risk for Falls

When you were little did you like to think about monsters, thunderstorms, or sharks in the ocean? Unpleasant things are unpleasant to think about. But unlike the boogeyman, falls are a real occurrence and considering your risk for a fall now can save you from one big nightmare later on. Below we discuss three main factors that can substantially increase your risk for falls.  Assess your risk now and keep a potential fall from happening.

Multiple medications lead to massive instability. Sedatives and antidepressants can be culprits as well as seemingly innocent over the counter medications. Dizziness is a common side effect of many medications and can also occur due to drug interactions when taking multiple drugs. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure all medications are necessary and will not interact negatively with each other.

Nerve pain and poor vision could inhibit your body’s natural ability to balance. Do you have poor sensation in your feet or nerve damage courtesy of neuropathy? Those important nerves send signals to your brain telling you how to balance and move reactively to your environment. Without these signals, you are at a higher risk for falls. Vision deficits also heavily contribute to fall risk, as your vision is the largest single sensory contributor to maintaining your balance. Eye care is crucial in preventing a fall.

Poor environment sets you up for disaster. That cute throw rug, poor lighting or a slippery tub could all lead to a fall. Take an honest look around your home environment to see what simple changes you can make to increase safety in your home. If you frequently get up in the middle of the night, a nightlight is essential.  In addition, ensure all electronic cords, books, and decor are out of walking areas prior to going to bed each evening.

If any of these risk factors apply to you, it means you are at an increased risk of falling. But don’t worry! Although some of these factors are beyond your control, there are several actions you can take to reduce your risk for a fall!

Balance and strength (which is necessary for good balance) can be improved, even if vision or sensation is impaired. CLICK HERE to view a video offering 5 easy exercises that you can do at home to help improve your balance (all you need is a chair!).  Please be have someone available to spot you the first time you try these exercises and start slow.

In addition, balance training is offered here at HARTZ Physical Therapy to keep you confident and stable. Our therapists are trained to push you beyond your limits while maintaining your safety at all times. In addition, our balance master is a unique machine that can aid in training you to react to a variety of situations. Free balance screenings with the balance master are available at our Lancaster office on New Holland Avenue. We would love to assist you with your balance goals, keeping you safe without worrying about the possibility of a fall.

Source: “Home and Recreational Safety.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 Feb. 2017, www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html.

Are you a New Year’s Resolution Newbee, Master or Flunkee?

Turning the page on the new year is a chance to wipe the slate clean—and to be better versions of ourselves. And when it comes to what we want to improve, goals that fall in the health and wellness arena top all other New Year’s resolutions. In fact, three of the top four resolutions in a YouGov poll were health-related:
(1) eat healthier
(2) get more exercise
(3) focus on selfcare, (ie: get more sleep)

There are three types of people who choose a goal from the health and wellness category as a New Year’s resolution: the resolution newbie, the resolution master and the resolution flunkee.  Let’s see which category you most identify with—and how focusing on the right strategy can help you get healthier in the new year.

Resolution Newbie. Maybe this is your first time making a commitment to your health and wellness. Good for you! Did a recent event like a health scare or loss of a loved one make you see the light? Or perhaps you want to be more active to enjoy activities with your grandchildren or to carry your own bag on the golf course. Whatever your goals are, taking that first step is a big one so you’ll want to be sure that you’re prepared for the challenge. Particularly when exercising for the first time or returning to an active lifestyle after a long hiatus, it’s important to have the proper information and tools to be successful. And that means tapping the healthcare resources available to you.  Clinicians like nutritionists and physical therapists can make sure that your body is prepared to take on new challenges and work with you to a design a program that
will help you achieve your goals.

Resolution Master. Perhaps you fall into a different camp: You vowed to get healthy in 2018 and you achieved it! For 2019, your resolution is to continue the work you’ve begun. After all, living a healthy lifestyle is a lifelong commitment; it’s not something you do for a while and then revert back to your former habits. As you prepare to embrace the new year, are there any small tweaks you can make to advance your goals? Maybe you’re thinking about training for and running a half marathon, but don’t know where to begin. A physical therapy evaluation is a great place to start—PTs are trained to assess your movement patterns and identify any limitations or weaknesses. Based on that information, the PT can design a personalized exercise program to help you safely and effectively prepare for the grueling half marathon course.  We have a great option for those who desire personalized care when working out: check out our Medically-Adapted Gym!

Resolution Flunkee. Let’s say your plan for next year is to get in better shape and improve your overall health (we support that resolution!), but this isn’t your first rodeo. Your resolution last year was pretty similar but it’s one year later, and you’re in the same place you were last New Year’s Eve. What stood in your way—was it time? Affordable options? Access to healthy choices and activities? If any of these barriers sound familiar, then along with your resolution, you need an action plan. Without planning ahead, you’ll find yourself staring down the new year with the same goal in mind. But let’s not focus only on the negative—what went right last year? Maybe you made sleep a priority, which in turn helped you to make better food choices at breakfast but
by afternoon, you found yourself choosing to energize with a soda and candy bar when all you  probably needed was an apple and a 15-minute walk. Take some time to think about the previous year—good and bad—and take with you what you need, and leave the rest behind. Afterall, you can’t plan where you’re going without understanding where you’ve been.

So, Which resolution type are you?

Keeping Kids Safe: 3 Hidden Dangers from a Musculoskeletal Expert

As a parent, one of our primary concerns is keeping our kids healthy and happy.  We make sure they are eating right, having an active lifestyle and not getting too much screen time.   Surprisingly, there are a few common kid-behaviors that we as parents may often see our kids doing, without even realizing the potential danger.

SWINGING A CHILD BY THEIR ARMS: Picture the following scenarios:

  • Have you ever been playing the yard with your children and you grab onto their hands and swing them around in a circle? It’s a common thing that we do and kids love it.
  • You are shopping in a department store and your child sees something they really want and they take off for it. Your instinct, as a parent, may be to quickly grab their arm in order to catch them.
  • You are on a walk with your kids, but you’ve found that they have run off ahead of you. You are running to catch up when you see a car coming down the road so you quickly grab your child’s arm in order to protect them.

I’m sure we have all done one of these things at some point and to some extent, this may be a necessary risk, but it is a risk all the same.  Pulling a child abruptly by the arm or holding he/she up by his/her arms has the potential to cause radial head subluxation. Believe it or not, depending on the child, it may not take much force for this to happen. Also called Nursemaid’s elbow, this is common in children because their bones are still growing and have loose ligaments surrounding them.  A abruptly yank or pull could cause the annular ligament to slip over the round portion of the bone. According to KidsHealth.org this is most often seen in children between the ages of 1 and 4.

If your kids love to be swung around, something to consider is grabbing them under their shoulders instead or asking them pull up a little bit to create a slight bend in the elbow as they swing.  This muscle contraction will help protect their ligaments.  It’s a good idea however, not to engage in this behavior too often when your children are little.

THE “W” SIT:  Usually seen in toddlers, the “W” sit is when a child sits with bum resting on the ground between their legs, legs out to either side with both knees bent and their feet tucked under them. We may marvel at the fact that our kids can actually sit this way! Some kids prefer this position more than other and typically utilize it when playing on the floor. Moving in and out of this position for very short periods is not terrible, however, when the child is sitting in the “W” position for long periods, it can raise some concern.

RISKS:

  • Sitting in this position for long periods puts extra strain on the hips joints and ligaments which can lead to an increase risk for hip dislocation as the child grows.
  • If the child is prone to tight muscles, “W” sitting can cause an increase in muscle tightness in the hips, knees, and ankles.
  • The wide sitting stance of this position also makes it easier to keep the body in an upright position. This leads to decreased core engagement / strength of the abdominals.
  • A little-known potential side-effect of this positioning is its effect on hand preference. As noted, children have a lot more trunk control when “W” sitting which makes it easier for children to pick up items with either hand. You normally wouldn’t think anything of this. However, it can have an effect later when the child is learning to write.

In my case joint laxity and loose ligaments runs in the family, so when I saw my 18-month old daughter starting to sit in this position for long periods, I immediately corrected her. I simply would lift her up and put her into a better position that still allowed to play. For example, I would lay her on her stomach to color, or have her sitting with her legs stretched out and a toy between her legs.

TOE WALKING:  Toe walking, when the child walks on their toes or the balls of their feet, is very common in children that are learning to walk.  Typically, it is not something that should cause concern, however, according to Mayo Clinic, it should raise some concern when the child is still toe walking after the age of 2 years. Possible causes for kids to continue toe walking past the age of 2 include:

  1. Tight Achilles Tendon– this is the tendon in the back of the lower leg that attaches to the heel.
  2. Cerebral Palsy– this is a disorder of movement that affects muscles tone
  3. Muscular Dystrophy – this is a genetic disease in which the muscle fibers are prone to damage and weakening over time
  4. Autism– toe walking has been linked to this spectrum disorder

Toe walking does not necessarily mean that your child has one of the conditions listed above, however should this behavior continue past 2 years old, it is a good idea to ask your doctor about it.

Well there you have it, maybe you’ve seen these behaviors in your kids and maybe you haven’t, but either way, you are now a little more prepared to keep young kids safe!

Effects of Bad Posture & How to Fix It

Have you ever noticed that grandma or grandpa seem to lose inches as they age and sometimes may seem to have a rounded upper back?  Well, the truth is, some of this is just the natural aging process, but there are things we can do now to prevent and correct this curving of the spine before it’s too late!

WHAT CAUSES THIS?  Well, nature does play a role, however a sedentary lifestyle and time spent on computers and smart phones can accelerate the decline.   As Americans, we often don’t realize how easily we are sucked into the sedentary lifestyle due to our jobs and advances in technology.  Everything is just becoming too convenient! All these things have a detrimental effect on our posture, which, in turn, can have other consequences on our bodies.

THIS CAN LEAD TO OTHER ISSUES: Yes, that’s right, other than the physical effects posture has on your outward appearance, bad posture also affects you in other ways.

HEADACHES: Looking down at your desk, phone or computer causes a forward bend in your neck. Staying in this position for an extended period or even short periods several times throughout the day can cause headaches. Why?  Well, when you are hunched over and looking down, you are decreasing the curve in your cervical spine putting excess strain on the muscles in the back of your neck as they are working overtime to keep your head from falling. This excess strain on those muscles is one of the many reasons you can get headaches.

DIGESTION: Sitting with bad posture for longer periods can also have an effect on your digestive organs. Just picture your organs all curled up in the normal position and then picture them with them folded over on each other with an extra 20 lbs of pressure on them. Does that give you an uncomfortable visual? This bad posture is putting extra pressure on your digestive organs, not allowing them to function properly.

POOR MOTIVATION: Not many of us think of poor posture being related to motivation, but it is. Studies have shown that being hunched over causes increased emotions of fearfulness, low self-esteem and having higher chances of being in a bad mood.

BACK: Your body has 3 natural curves: cervical, thoracic and lumbar.  When slouching for long periods of time, whether in the car, at work, on the sofa, day after day this can negatively affect your back and put increased pressure/ stress on different areas. The longer the behavior occurs the more negative effects it can have on your body by putting your body in this unnatural position.

The bottom line is, proper posture keeps you in a position that causes the least amount of strain on your muscles and ligaments.

So, what can we do to improve our posture?

Maintaining the proper posture after having bad posture is work and it takes time, however it is worth it! You need to be consciously aware of your body’s position.  The following are suggested positioning for seated and standing posture.

SEATED: When in a seated position you should have your feet planted on the floor or a foot rest if your legs are too short for the chair. Keep feet in front of your body and do not cross your legs.  Your knees should be at a 90-degree angle with the seat of the chair far enough away from the back of your knees to create a gap. Your back should be in an upright position with low and mid back support. Shoulders are relaxed, and elbows bent at a 90-degree angle (forearms parallel to the ground).

STANDING: When standing, most of your weight should fall on the balls of your feet. Knees should be slightly bent and hip width apart. Your back should be upright and tall with your shoulders pinched back. Pulling your tummy in will give your back some extra support. Your head should be held high and level.

* images from www.health.harvard.edu

Again, improving your posture is not always easy. It will take a conscience effort!   Put a timer on your phone or a sticky note on your desk as a reminder for yourself. If your car or seat at work is not providing you with the correct amount of low and mid back support, you can roll up a towel and place in the area you are lacking support.  Over time good posture will put less strain on your body.

Here is a great video with some quick tips on proper posture while on the computer

CLICK HERE for some great workday stretches!

If you have any questions about posture or what exercises you can do to help, feel free to contact a therapist at one of our offices to make an appointment. We would love to help you achieve your goals!

  • Krystle Groff, Physical Therapy Assistant

Does your Growing Athlete have Knee Pain?

Patellar Femoral Pain Syndrome, otherwise known as PFPS, is common in adolescent athletes especially those who participate in sports year-round. This diagnosis presents itself with generic soreness in and around the front of the knee and/or kneecap. Since most athletes in their teens have growth spurts, their bones grow faster than their muscles. This causes an imbalance with the forces around the knee causing abnormal motion of the kneecap. Typically, this will cause pain with prolonged standing, negotiating stairs and athletic activity in general.

Physical therapy is one of the few avenues available to reduce the pain and accelerate a return to sports with full function. The typical plan of care is as follows:

  1. REDUCE SWELLING: Modalities, such as ice, heat or electric stim can help
  2. INCREASE FLEXIBILITY:  Chances are good that the ligaments surrounding the knee (IT Band, lateral retinaculum) haven’t kept up with the bone growth and are therefore very tight.  As a result, the patella moves laterally (to the outside) when running or walking, creating extra friction, and often pain.  Stretching the tight ligaments allows the knee cap to return to its normal tracking pattern and will reduce pain.
  3. STRENGTHEN WEAK MUSCLES:  As the therapist works to stretch tight ligaments, the patient must also strengthen key muscle groups, such as quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus medius, gluteus maximus. These muscles help to stabilize the joint which provide increased endurance with sport-related activities and also help to keep the patella moving smoothly.
  4. ADD PLYOMETRICS:  As pain and swelling is alleviated, it is time to introduce a plyometric program, such as agility or sport-specific training.  This is the final step with therapy to help the athlete ease their transition back to his/her sport. This last step challenges the athlete with higher functional tasks in order to simulate game or field conditions. Quick steps, lateral jumps, and ladder drills are just a few of the techniques that a therapist may use to help move a young adult toward reentry to their sport or activity.

Don’t wait and deal with pain! Come in and see a physical therapist today.

5 Easy Tips for Pain-Free Gardening

For most of us, spring and summer is the time of year when the weeds in our yard start calling!  When the weeds go crazy, we might feel overwhelmed and want to do it all in one weekend, however, as I’m sure you have figured out, this is not a great idea.  Overdoing it can often mean an increase in aches and pains, especially back pain.

Whether you are planning on weeding the flower beds, mulching, pruning, planting, or all of the above, there are a few steps you can take to help prevent residual soreness the following few days.

GET THE GEAR:  Before working in the yard, it is important to have to proper gear: hat, suntan lotion, sunglasses, and a water bottle.  You’ve all heard it before, staying hydrated and protected from the sun is a must!

WARM-UP:  Get those muscles warmed and loose by going for a short 5-10 minute walk.  In addition, it is a good idea to perform some dynamic stretches, such a walking lunges with a torso twist, skipping or high knee walking.  Yard work is hard work and skipping a warm-up will put excess strain on your muscles and joints, increasing your chance of an injury.

TAKE BREAKS: Don’t get so caught up in the work, that you forget to take frequent breaks. They don’t have to be long, but it is important to take time to stretch and get a drink of water.

CHECK YOUR FORM: Whether it’s bending over weeding, shoveling or spreading mulch or pushing a lawn mower, all of these jobs put extra strain on your back. By altering your form while you do some of these activities, you can decrease your chances of having back pain.  Here are some suggestions:

Weeding:
– Good idea: Kneel on a soft mat to save your back and knees.
– Better idea: Sit on a stool and rest your elbows on your knees
– Change positions frequently to avoid overuse

Trimming the Hedges:
– Keep your back straight
– Utilize small strokes to prevent strain in neck and shoulders
– Rest every 5-7 minutes to give you back a rest… it will thank you later.

Wheel barrel:
– Bend your knees to lift, NOT your back
– Try not to twist while holding the handles. Wheel barrels can easily be unbalanced…if it starts to go, you do not want to be pulled down with it.
– Push, do not pull.

Shoveling:
– Keep feet firmly planted on the ground
– Keep hips forward, facing where you are shoveling to prevent twisting of the back
– If you are moving dirt from one place to another, pick up your feet and turn your entire body to face the side you will be placing the dirt. This may seem unnatural and may take a little longer, however you could be saving your back from days of soreness.

Lifting :
– As temping as it is to get it all in one load, save your back and take two trips with smaller loads.
– Make sure to keep the load close to your body.

COOL DOWN/STRETCHINGOnce you’ve had your fill, it is a good idea to take a few moments to cool down and stretch.  Often your body might tell you what body part could use a good stretch, but if you are looking for a few suggestions, we’ve got you covered:

Yard work can be fun, especially when you get the whole family involved, but taking a few steps to lesson injury risk can go a long way to keeping the garden weed-free all summer long!

Osteoporosis- Tips to Keep those Bones Strong

What is contentious, funny, serious, can be picked, has its own song named after it, and is only appreciated when broken? The answer: a 206 piece puzzle you carry around with you every day. Not only does it keep you from falling into a soft puddle of ooze on the floor, your bones also help form blood cells (red and white), store and release minerals, hold (and hide!) some triglycerides, and protect your brain and spine. When it comes to your bone health, osteoporosis is a chief concern to wrecking your source of stability. Here are key lifestyle changes that will reduce your risk for fractures, as well as a quick peek at the disease process itself.

What is osteoporosis? It all relates back to that mineral holding and releasing property mentioned earlier. If your body keeps stealing your bone minerals for other functions, the skeleton loses its density, causing bones to become more brittle, thereby increasing likelihood of fracture.

So where does this come from and who does it affect? Women are the strong favorites for osteoporosis, as well as the elderly. Other risk factors include: Family history, European or Asian descent, sedentary lifestyles, smoking, low calcium/Vitamin D intake, more than 2 drinks imbibed daily, as well as certain prescription medications which increase your risk.  Granted, some of these risk factors can’t be helped. Changing your family history or age is truly impossible, despite our best efforts!  However WE CAN focus on changing some lifestyle factors affecting the disease.

Medication may feel like the easy way out of bone compromise. There are generally two types of drugs: Antiresorptive drugs which slow down bone loss, and bone-building drugs, which promote increased bone mass. However some of these drugs can increase your risk of cancer, heart disease, and other side effects, warranting a discussion with your doctor before utilizing such medication.

A more natural option is focusing on mineral intake. Calcium and vitamin D are crucial in building bone mass. Calcium alone is difficult for the body to utilize without vitamin D. Once again speaking with a doctor or nutritionist is important in setting dietary goals and intake levels. Other dietary changes can include reducing alcohol consumption and ceasing smoking.

Finally, low impact exercises can be very beneficial in building bone mass. Walking, hiking, dancing, lifting weights, and biking are all excellent option to improve bone mass. However in cases of severe osteoporosis, low impact exercise, such as swimming, may be a better starting point. Talk to us, your local movement experts, for recommendations for a good exercise plan tailor-made to keep you happy and growing stronger! Here at HARTZ PT, we offer a Medically Adapted Gym (MAG) which is designed to customize your fitness goals with a supervising exercise physiologist.  Our Better Bones, Better Balance Class is also designed to keep you on your feet and reduce injury and the fear of falling, allowing you to move with confidence.

No matter where you are in your bone health journey, let us help you stay healthy or improve your health with our exceptional therapy services, tailored gym work-outs, or focused balance classes. Remember, you have a lot of bones to keep in working order!

Tips for Traveling after a Joint Replacement

The surgery is done and now is the time to get back to your life.  A joint replacement of any kind is not an easy surgery from which to recover. It takes time!  When the time comes to travel again via car or plane, here are some tips to help make the trip more enjoyable.

4-6 weeks post-surgery:  The majority of surgeons will recommend that you wait a minimum of 6 weeks post-surgery before traveling, however some say you can travel as soon as you are comfortable sitting down, but a minimum of 4 weeks.  This decision depends largely on the length of time you will be traveling, and what mode of transportation you will be utilizing.

Pick your Seat: If you are traveling by air, it is best to select what seat you have on the airplane.  Upgrading to first class is the best solution, but many times not financially possible.  The row of seats behind the partition (between first class and economy) tend to have a little more leg room.  Emergency exit rows also have a little more leg room but since you are traveling after a major operation you might not have the ability to move fast enough to perform the duties required in those rows in case of an actual emergency.  It would also be best to obtain an aisle seat if the other options listed are not possible.

Frequent Breaks: Sitting for long periods of time is very common when traveling. The affected extremity tends to grow tight and stiffen up.  If possible, while on the plane, attempt to get up every 15-20 minutes.  If your travels by plane take you across the country, try to split the trip up and make a stop along the way (at least one layover) to give yourself the opportunity to get off the plane and walk around until your next flight is called.

Security Woes: Going through security at the airport is challenging for anyone. Getting through security after a joint replacement may require a little more preparation. Some physician’s offices may give you a letter stating you have had a joint replacement surgery.  You should also inform the TSA agent upon your arrival at the security checkpoint, that you have received a joint replacement very recently.  You should be prepared to go through extra screening.  Wear loose fitting clothing in the case that you are asked to show your surgical incision.  The more prepared you are, the smoother the process.

Car travel does not have security component, but you still want to plan your trip with frequent stops to give yourself time to get up and walk around. This will help avoid stiffness and tightness at the surgical location and surrounding extremity.  Some knee replacement patients prefer to sit in the back seat to keep their leg elevated across the seat, while others prefer the passenger seat pushed back all the way leaving as much leg room under the dash as possible.

Traveling after a joint replacement is possible, it just takes a little more planning.  It is always a good idea to consult your surgeon or physical therapist prior to your trip for additional recommendations specific to your state of recovery.

Foam Rolling

woman using foam rollI am sure you have heard it before: Stretching after a tough workout will reduce the risk for injury and can lessen muscle soreness.  Traditional arm and leg stretches often are the first thing to come to mind, but have you ever considered foam rolling to achieve the same benefits?

Foam rolling is a type of manual therapy that can be performed independently.  Proponents have touted that foam rolling improves flexibility, reduces recovery, and may even help athletic performance. While moderate levels of research support the notion that foam rolling increases flexibility and speeds recovery, utilizing foam rolling as a tool to improve athletic performance has little research support. The current knowledge base has promoted foam rolling primarily as a tool to use either before or after a workout.

FLEXIBILITY IMPROVEMENTS: Research supports the fact that foam rolling can increase flexibility in both the short-term and the long-term.  Immediate changes in flexibility tend to last up to ten minutes, with longer term flexibility changes reported when foam rolling is routinely performed.

QUICKER RECOVERY: Improvements in recovery have tended to focus on subjective complaints of muscle soreness, often called DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Statistics have shown that foam rolling can significantly reduce complaints of muscle soreness after activity. However, the exact reason for the reduction of soreness is unknown.

 ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE: The lack of research backing improved athletic performance is a key point that is often overlooked by laymen when it comes to appropriate use of foam rolling. The term “kinetic chain” is often utilized by foam rolling enthusiasts, however, carryover into actual changes in mobility and performance has not been found. Although foam rolling techniques often promote “feel good” sensations, the results are minimal for improving athletic performance prior to workout. The bottom line here is long term utilization of foam rolling prior to working out is not indicated.

Foam rolling should continue to play a role in fitness training recovery, however further research is needed to determine its optimal use. If you would like to try foam rolling as a recovery technique, start with 3 sets of 20-30 second repetitions following your workouts. Focus on the large muscles groups that have been working hardest, such as your quads, calves or back.  It might be a good way to change up your routine.   If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us!

Works Cited:
http://www.scienceforsport.com/foam-rolling/
https://drjohnrusin.com/why-foam-rolling-doesnt-do-what-you-think-it-does/

Backpack Safety Tips

kids backpacksHave you picked up your child’s backpack recently?  Chances are, it feels like it weighs a ton!  Shoulder, neck and back pain in adolescents could be linked to the loads students are lugging around every day. Choosing the right backpack can be crucial to helping students of all ages stay pain free.

Choose Wisely  Consider the following when choosing a backpack:

  • Be sure the backpack has 2 padded straps; the straps should be at least 2 inches wide.
  • Look for one with padded back support.
  • A waist strap will help ensure even distribution of weight.
  • A backpack with multiple compartments will also help distribute weight more evenly.
  • Make sure you choose a backpack that’s made of a lightweight material.
  • An alternative option is to choose a backpack with wheels and a retractable handle for easy rolling.

Wear Properly  Finding the right backpack is only half the battle. This school year pay close attention to how the backpack is worn. The following are tips to wearing the backpack properly:

  • Always use both shoulder straps.
  • Keep both straps tightened — the backpack should never sit lower than the belt line.
  • The weight of the backpack should not exceed 10-15% of the user’s body weight.
  • Organize: distribute weight evenly by placing heavier items closer to the back and lighter items near the outside.
  • Lift the backpack using proper technique: bend from the knees, not from the back.
  • Wear for no longer than 30 minutes at a time.  (It it a good idea to take it off and place on the ground if you just are standing around waiting for the bus.)

Follow these tips to keep your child pain-free this school year. For more details on backpack safety for your student, click here.

Baseball: Pitching Tips

Zach baseball pic-smallEvery spring, many people look forward to the crack of the ball hitting the bat and the sound of the fans cheering on their teams at the baseball diamond. Locally, Little league coaches are ramping up for the warmer weather, preparing their game schedules and getting themselves educated about the new rules and regulations of the game.  Practices for the little leaguers have begun and the players are anxious to get back to throwing the rawhide in their first games of the season!

In the sheer excitement of the season, safety and prevention of injuries is not usually at the forefront. However, injury prevention techniques are essential for players who want to continue running the bases until the last game of the season.

Common injuries we see among baseball players revolve around the shoulder ,elbow, knee and ankle. Many problems stem from throwing too much or too soon. In fact, 45% of pitchers under the age of 12, complain of chronic arm pain, called medial epicondyle apophysitis, also known as “pitchers elbow”. In this scenario, pain and swelling inside the elbow can limit range of motion.  Common causes include overuse of the arm and the forceful and repetitive nature of throwing.  In particular, the act of pitching places intense stress on the bones, growth plates and ligaments.  To complicate the issue, in the case of the young and adolescent player, these structures are not fully developed yet.  Pitchers ages 9 to 14 are at greater risk of injury from over-use.

Here are some tips to help coaches and parents prevent injury in younger pitchers:

  1. PITCH COUNT:    It is essential to monitor the total number of pitches per game. Coaches must watch for fatigue and other signs that the pitcher may be having pain, such as pitch speed and accuracy.
  2. FANCY PITCHES: Young pitchers, who can throw an accurate curve or breaking ball, tend to be hard to find.  Therefore, once identified, someone with this ability will quickly become a popular choice in the games.  However, these types of pitches tend to place greater stress on the elbow, and therefore, should not be thrown prior to age 14.  For pitchers ages 15 and older, these specialty pitches should be closely monitored to ensure they are not overused.
  3. MECHANICS: Proper throwing technique helps avoid undue stresses and injury.  Remember to keep the elbow even with the shoulder during the wind up and initiation of the pitch. This will help the kids avoid throwing side-arm.  Sometimes young pitchers need frequent reminders about proper technique.

If you do sustain an injury, or are having pain and don’t want it to get worse, we can help!  Physical therapists are the experts of the musculoskeletal system.  Utilizing a personalized, one-on-one approach, we can help restore mobility and strength as well as eliminate the pain.  In addition, we always spend the time to educate our patients and instruct the coaches and parents, as needed, in the proper strengthening techniques for prevention of a future recurrence.

As a Direct Access provider, patients do not need a referral to access physical therapy and we often have same day or next day appointments available.  Save time and money by calling us first.  As a locally owned and operated clinic, we care about our community and strive to exceed our patient’s expectations every day!

Smart Gardening

Hands holding seedlengSMART GARDENING

Spring is here! As another winter fades and warmer weather approaches, it is time to get outside and get working on the yard and garden. While many of us look forward to working in the soil, it is a good idea to prepare your body for this increased work load. Muscle strains are common this time of year for those who jump right into the spring routine, without properly preparing themselves, after a long winter indoors.  Here are some tips to keep you pain-free this spring!

  1. Warm Up: A quick 10-15 minute walk around the neighborhood will do.  This gets the blood pumping and the body ready to work.
  2. Proper Form for Success:  Proper form indicates you should bend using your knees, not your back, or better yet, get a padded kneeler or stool.  If shoveling, keep the shovel close to your body, and turn using small steps, instead of twisting your back in an awkward position to throw the dirt aside.
  3. Take Breaks:  As you progress through the garden, identify small goals, (…when I finish weeding around 3 bushes, or after I plant 2 more flowers…) at which time you will stand up and stretch.  It is a good idea to plan stretching breaks every 5-10 minutes.
  4. Start Slowly:  On the first beautiful Saturday, you might be tempted to work outside all day, but it is a good idea to start slowly.  Work for 30-60 minutes and then take a break.  See how your body feels an hour later.  If you feel good, try another 30 minutes.
  5. Listen: You know your body …listen to it!  You will be glad you did tomorrow!

If you do suffer an injury, physical therapy is often the best first treatment option.  Quick access to care typically leads to more successful management of the injury. (At HARTZ, we often have same day or next day appointments available!)

Golfing Tip

golf net-smallWarmer temperatures are here!  For many people, this means it is time to dust off the golf clubs, call your buddies, and hit the links!  A lifelong sport, golf offers players a great low impact way to exercise and stay active as we get older, especially if we forgo the cart and walk the course. With the following tips, not only can we help to prevent injuries, but also, to improve our overall golf game.

Golfing Injuries
As we age, the prevalence of injuries increases due to a number of factors. These factors include skeletal changes (arthritis, osteoporosis), muscular changes (weakness), sensory changes (decreased visual acuity, balance deficits), and cardiopulmonary changes (decreased endurance). These physiological changes can lead to changes in our swing technique. This could potentially place undue stress on different muscles in various ways leading to fatigue and overuse injuries.

Injury Prevention
We can be proactive in preventing injuries by focusing on three areas:
1) Always performing a sufficient warm up
2) Improving our flexibility through dynamic and static stretches
3) Strengthening, beginning with our “core” muscles

Warming-up before hitting the golf course or driving range. Warming up can include activities such as brisk walking, calisthenics or even jogging in place. These activities will elevate the heart rate, increase blood flow and oxygen to the muscles, and allow you to get the maximum benefit from stretching.

Improving flexibility can be performed through dynamic and static stretching.

Dynamic stretching (stretching as you are moving) is preferred before beginning an activity.  Check out this link for some great golf-specific dynamic stretches.

Static stretching (long holds in a stretched position) is more beneficial after the activity is completed.  Below are a few examples of static stretches which will foster healthy muscles post-18 holes:

OneTouch 4.6 Scanned Documents

Strength training programs go a long way in reducing injuries in addition to improving strength and power. Core strengthening is critical as the trunk muscles are active in all parts of the golf swing. Poor trunk muscle or core endurance is highly correlated to the incidence of low back injury. Here are a few Core Strengthening exercises to have on your radar:
OneTouch 4.6 Scanned DocumentsSeeing a Physical Therapist
If pain is significantly affecting your golf game, a visit to a physical therapist can help. Due to Direct Access a physician’s referral is not required with most insurances.  Through a thorough evaluation, an individualized program can be created to address a golfer’s specific strength and flexibility deficits.  This will help you get back on the greens quickly and pain-free!

Basketball:Tips

basket ball court

Basketball Injuries Can Keep You from Playing Your Best. Here are some great tips to keep you in the game and to help you avoid injuries.

Basketball season can be grueling….4-5 months, hours upon hours of practices, a schedule full of hard fought games against rivals, stressful situations where you feel like the world depends on whether you make this foul shot, not to mention trying to get some extra shooting practice whenever possible. It is absolutely essential that players take steps to avoid performance deterioration throughout the season, so they can ensure they are running with the team and not riding the pine. Here are six helpful reminders to help your basketball lover stay in the game this season:

(1) Don’t Neglect the Before and After: Dynamic stretching prior to practices and games and a period of cool down including prolonged held stretches post-workout are essential to keeping those muscles and ligaments limber and healthy. Put a reminder on your calendar to allow time for this both before and after you play.

(2) You Are What You Eat: Neglecting your diet could play a major role in your energy level. Don’t underestimate the importance of a well-balanced diet! General guidelines suggest 25% protein, 60% carbohydrates (fruits and veggies fit in here) and 15% fats. Aim for 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day if possible. (larger meals require a lot of energy to digest, therefore leaving less energy for the hardwood)

(3) Water is your friend: Although sports drinks claim to be the end-all-be-all, the truth is they carry a lot of excess sugars that aren’t necessary. In moderation, no problem, however, water is best to keep you ready to play. Aim for 8-10 twelve ounce glasses of water daily.

(4) Maintain Your Muscle: Although you won’t be completing intense strength training sessions during the season, it is important to continue some strengthening exercises to ensure you don’t lose muscle throughout the season. Utilizing your own body weight or simple hand weights is your best bet and ensure you allow 2 days rest between weight sessions.

(5) Sleeping rocks: 5am wake-up calls for school are not uncommon. However, ensuring players get enough sleep will help ensure solid performance on the court. 7-8 hours should suffice for most, with younger players 16 and under frequently requiring a little more. If you want to soar with the eagles, you can’t hoot with the owls!

(6) Maintain Conditioning When Injured: If you do suffer an injury, talk to your health care providers about what you can continue to do in order to maintain some degree of conditioning. Better yet, contact a qualified physical therapist first for an evaluation (No, you don’t need a physician’s referral!). As highly trained musculoskeletal experts, PTs will usually be able to tell you what’s going on at the initial evaluation and will be able to start your rehabilitation program right away. In addition, he or she will be able to advise you about what you can and cannot continue to do. This quick access to care will often decrease wait time and help you get back to the court most quickly.

Hopefully these tips will help parents and players alike be smart throughout the season to ensure lots of playing time and less down time! If you ever have a question about an injury or pain you are having, please call our office for a quick phone consultation with a physical therapist. We can answer your questions, or refer you to someone who can if it is beyond the scope of our expertise. Good luck this season to all baskeball players. Stay healthy and play hard!

Improving Balance

DSC_0012 As we age, our balance isn’t what it once was. Balance is considered an automatic reflex; however, muscles may become weak or inflexible, limiting the automatic reflex capability. When balance becomes a daily concern, it is our tendency as humans to limit movement in an effort to minimize the chance of a fall. Unfortunately, this limited movement only weakens the muscles further.

The silver lining? It was found that with practice, almost anyone can achieve better balance. With stronger legs and more flexible ankles, falls can be prevented (and a person can also catch themselves from falling).

There are several at-home exercises you can do to help improve your balance. While we recommend consulting a physical therapist first to help assess where your strength/flexibility is most needed, these exercises are also a great place to begin.

First, try standing on one foot. If you find you wobble, this is the practice for you! With time, balancing on one foot will increase your strength and help you become more in tune with your body.

Another beginner’s balance practice is to sit on a balance ball. While keeping both feet flat on the floor, engage your abdominal muscles. This exercise will help you become more aware of your abdominal muscles and posture while also relying on your legs to assist you in remaining grounded.

Questions about your balance issues? We’re just a call away.

Winter Fall Prevention

Shoveling

With winter comes ice, snow, sleet, and other varying forms of precipitation. There’s something they have in common: they make things slippery.

Failing to prepare is preparing to… 
Meteorologists may not get it right all the time, but in the case of inclement weather, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If poor weather is headed your way, don’t fail to prepare. Make sure you have a shovel and plenty of salt to sprinkle on your driveway and walkways. Shoveling the snow as it falls may seem tortuous, but lifting light layers of snow will be easier on your back. The swift removal of snow, along with the periodic sprinkling of salt, will help prevent freezing. During the winter months, falls on frozen surfaces is a primary cause of back-related injuries.  Make sure your snow boots are nearby.

Bag lady.
Many of us are guilty of looking like a bag lady (or gent’). We are a one-trip generation. Rather than carrying items in from your car – one at a time – we load them up! When the weather is harsh and ice is part of the equation, do yourself a favor and keep your hands free (even if that means more trips to and fro). Keeping your hands free will help stabilize you as you walk.

Shuffle, shuffle.
It may not be an aspiration of yours to look like a Penguin, but doing the “Penguin Shuffle” can help you remain vertical. Taking small steps helps keep your center of gravity over your front legs (minimizing falls).

If the elements get the better of you, speedy healing is just a call away. Visit us at our any of our 5 convenient locations (and with Direct Access, you don’t need a referral getting you the help you need more quickly!).

 

Hip Injury Prevention

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hip injuries are painful and are also common. Hip injuries may stem from weakened bones (typically caused by osteoarthritis or osteoporosis) which is often seen in older adults. Similarly, young adults are at risk for hip injuries due to overuse or heavy impact from sports or physical activity. In fact five to nine percent of high school athlete injuries involve the hips.

Such injuries range from strains to fractures. Your hip is the joint where your thigh bone meets your pelvis bone. It’s no surprise that these ball-and-socket joints help you move; consequently, when your hip is injured, it affects every step.

A common hip injury for young adults is a hip flexor strain. To prevent this injury try the following:

–        Increase core strength,

–        Improve flexibility of calves, quadriceps and hip flexors,

–        Warm-up prior to intense activity

Another common injury is a hip fracture, typically seen in older adults. Many of these fractures are caused from falls. Learn about fall prevention here.

Treatment plans vary but may include rest, physical therapy or surgery. It’s important to seek out your options to ensure the best treatment for your injury. Questions? Feel free to contact us.

-Wayne McKinnley, PT, OCS

Returning to the Track

Copyright: myroom / 123RF Stock Photo

If you’re a runner, odds are you’ve dealt with a running-related injury. Don’t make the mistake of returning to your regular running regimen without proper recovery; this could potentially increase the severity of the original injury. When in recovery, take these steps to ensure proper treatment – getting you back on the track in a jiff.

Take off the mask.

We tend to make the mistake of covering up the symptoms of an injury, rather than treating the core root of the problem. Using over-the-counter pain relievers as your go-to daily pain management will not pay off in the long-run when dealing with the most common types of running injuries often referred to as overuse injuries. In order to get back on track, you must address the root of the problem and often times this is accomplished through strengthening, stretching, rest, and may require physical therapy.

Start slowly.

If you went through the trouble of staying away from running and also received physical therapy to help heal an injury, then be wise about getting “back into it.” You can’t expect your body to be in the same shape it was when you decided to take some time off. To prevent sparking the irritation of the injury, ease into your running program: starting with 25 percent of what was previously “normal.” Progressing from this point often involves following the 10 percent rule (i.e., add only 10 percent to your weekly mileage when returning to your normal program).  For many returning runners it is beneficial to incorporate softer surfaces such as grass, trails, and the track to reduce forces being put on the body.

Mix and match.

There are many ways to get exercise that will still enable you to receive cardiovascular training without re-injuring yourself. Try alternating between low mileage runs, biking, power walking, swimming, and elliptical use. This cross training can help get your body back in gear for hitting the pavement. (It is advised to ask your physical therapist what exercises are recommended.)

Drew Nesbitt, DPT

Fall Prevention

hand rail

For older adults, falls can be detrimental; hip fractures and head injuries top the list of concern. In fact, every 15 seconds an older adult is seen in the emergency department for fall-related injuries. There are, however, ways to prevent falls. Here are some safety tips for you, your family and older adults in your life.

Exercise. 
Regular exercise can assist with balance, strength and flexibility. Even moderate movement can increase your ability to balance when conditions are somewhat less than favorable (think snow, ice, or even rain). As we know, weakened bones are a concern as people age, and weight bearing exercises will help keep bones strong, minimizing the likelihood of fractures.

Home Awareness.
Keeping your home safe is essential to prevent unnecessary falls. Remove tripping hazards (dog toys or small area rugs) and make sure lighting is not dim. Installing emergency grab bars can also aid in the prevention of falls.

Get Annual Check-ups.
Get your vision checked annually to make sure you’re seeing properly. Also make sure to talk to your doctor about any prescriptions you’re taking. Some prescriptions may increase dizziness.

It’s important for families to know about the frequency and severity of fall-related injuries. It’s an issue that affects not only the older adult population, but also their friends and family members who will be responsible for helping them get back on their feet again. The more knowledge we have about prevention, the more we can help our family members stay safe.  In addition, physical therapy can reduce your risk of falls.  Consider consulting with a PT for helpful tips about how to strengthen your body to help you stay on your feet!

Football Safety

Copyright: nyul / 123RF Stock Photo

Summer is over and the smell of fall sports is strong. Make sure the athlete in your family is prepared, minimizing the likelihood of injury.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012) high school athletes account for an estimated two million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations each year. What’s more, the injuries are unlike those of the past. Sports now require more extensive training, more intense practices, and added game time. With the inevitability of overuse, it’s important to know how to prevent injury.

These easy steps can help you avoid injury, ensuring longer play-time and a painless season. Well, bad pain at least!

Pre-participation exams:
Many schools require pre-participation exams, or “sports physicals.” These assessments of health can catch a medical condition that could ultimately end in injury. Start the season off on the right foot.

Off-season prep:
Without regular exercise, your muscles and joints will not be adequately prepared for strenuous physical activity. Rather than risking over-exertion, a pulled muscle, or complete exhaustion, keep physically active. (For you winter sport players, start now!)

Warm-up:
The warm-up. We’ve heard it’s important, and it’s not joke. Starting any exercise regimen without a proper warm-up can give you a one-way ticket to injury town. Warming-up helps break down the chemical complex of oxygen, which enables it to separate from the blood (allowing its delivery to the muscle for better performance). Warming up also helps you avoid exercise induced cardiac abnormalities by increasing blood flow to the heart. One last take-away, warming up helps your muscles get used to the idea of being pushed to their limits. This can help minimize muscle soreness.

Don’t be a hero:
Stop when it hurts. Your body is telling you something if you’re in pain. If you don’t listen to the pain receptors, you could be making the situation worse. Say you have a stress fracture. Odds are that with a little TLC and physical therapy you’re en route to a speedy recovery, getting you back in the game. What’s unfortunate is when you don’t take this warning sign seriously, and continue to play. Consequently, your bench time just increased, and your injury worsened.

Let’s go team!